How the police succeeded in clearing up more sexual offenses
Few sexual crimes lead to charges and convictions in Sweden, according to the Council of Europe's expert group GREVIO. In order to achieve a better result, the police in Stockholm Nord chose to change their way of working, which proved to be successful – significantly more crimes were solved.
In one year, the number of charges raised in court increased by roughly 30 percent, from 70 cases in 2019 to 101 cases of rape/sexual crime in 2020.
–It shows that we managed to secure evidence in more cases, which feels good. We in the police are often criticised for being bad at solving sexual crimes. These are complicated crimes and difficult investigations. Often there is no evidence, physical injuries or witnesses. But after we changed the organization and our way of working, we have been able to achieve a consistent and high quality of what we do, says Niklas Kraft, group leader for the sexual crime group at the Stockholm Nord police.
Previously, rapes were investigated at the section for serious crimes. The crimes were handled in several different groups. When the pilot project began in 2019, they gathered the skills in a group of 15 people and have subsequently been able to identify the needs and expand the staff to 22 people.
–When sexual crimes were investigated among other serious crimes, they competed with explosions and shootings. In our new group, sexual offenses are not given lower priority or handled based on the number present in the workforce, says Niklas Kraft.
Why is your model successful?
–All in all, the changed way of working is about gathering the resources in a group, which also increases competence. We police officers must act quickly, make contact with plaintiffs within 24 hours and ask the right questions early, collect better supporting evidence and ensure that crimes do not fall through the cracks. Reviewing and raising the competence of both the group and external commanders is central.
The sexual crime group has also introduced a standard to contact the victim within 24 hours. Previously, there was no routine regarding when in time this would take place.
–Slow pace and long processing time are devastating for a sexual crime investigation. If it goes quickly, it is easier to find supporting evidence, such as injuries to the body, preventing text messages from being deleted or other things that can be evidence, says Niklas Kraft.
In addition, he believes that it is important to understand the crime victim's situation in order to be able to ask the right questions in interrogation. With the changed organisation and pooled skills, knowledge has been strengthened in the group and the police officers learn from each other.
Often there are no visible physical injuries in sexual offenses. Then proof of support and a puzzle of details are required. Speed is also important for the investigation to be conducted objectively, for information to remain and can be secured with those involved, which can often provide important information about the incident.
–In the case of a burglary, you call the police immediately, but in the case of a sexual crime, you often know the person and think about what happens to the perpetrator when reporting, how will I be perceived by others, it takes time to come to terms with the fact that you have been exposed. Therefore, it often takes time before reporting, which can make our investigative work more difficult.
What challenges have you encountered?
- Our limited resources are a challenge. We have major challenges within the police, with an enormous number of serious violent crimes and a large part of our resources go to other cases, which means that we are slimming in terms of resources. This is not a quick fix. We are not finished and we are not at a final result. We are still learning and need to continue to evolve. We have tried to take care of our mission fully, but we will have to find better routines to equalize pressure, get help at an earlier stage when our resources run out. Therefore, we must spread our knowledge so that we can get relief quickly when we get a lot.
What have you developed since the start?
- We have worked a lot with the initial measures. As trace protection, for example we need to secure DNA and chat conversations in phones. It is extremely important to secure evidence as close to the time of the crime as possible. It is a concrete area that we developed, previously we did not really have that focus. Our work has resulted in an extensive qualitative increase, but in terms of results we need to make adjustments. We don't hear plaintiffs fast enough, because we don't have the resources to do so. We need to find good routines for that, our work is in constant development.
The police work in a similar way in several municipalities. Borlänge and Falun have begun to gather expertise and cases related to sexual crimes in one group. Region Stockholm has recently concluded that similar groups should be started in Stockholm city and the south.
The Istanbul Convention and GREVIO's recommendations to Sweden: legislation and legal process
By ratifying the Istanbul Convention, Sweden has undertaken to provide support and assistance to all girls and women who are exposed to violence and to prevent, prosecute and abolish all forms of men's violence against women. The provisions under the fourth pillar of the convention include legislation and other measures as well as investigation and prosecution that must be based on a gender perspective, the rights of victims of violence and knowledge about men's violence against women.
GREVIO's recommendations to Sweden are about ensuring the safety and legal security of victims of violence and ensuring that perpetrators of violence are held accountable for their actions.
In order to better live up to the convention, GREVIO urges Sweden to, among other things:
Expand the capacity of law enforcement agencies
In order for the relevant professional groups and authorities to be able to act quickly and appropriately in all matters relating to any form of violence, knowledge, prerequisites and resources are needed.
Increase the proportion of prosecuted crimes
The reasons why so few reports of rape and other forms of men's violence against women lead to charges, let alone convictions, must be identified and addressed.
Countering the shaming and blaming of abused girls and women
Neither the treatment nor the legal process must be influenced by discrimination, stereotypes, prejudices or personal values.
Publication date: 28 July 2022
Last updated: 25 November 2022